Bettered but not disgraced – Bradford City bow out of the League Cup but offer up another performance of promise

Bradford City 1
Cook 18
Blackburn Rovers 2
Dack 31, Markanday 39

By Tim Penfold

Bradford City fought hard and fought to the end but fell to a narrow defeat against Blackburn Rovers this evening. It was an entertaining cup-tie, eventually decided by the superior quality in the visitors’ attack.

The hosts lined up in a 4-4-2, ceding their usual control of the midfield in order to have both Andy Cook and Kian Harratt up against an inexperienced visiting defence. Rovers, meanwhile, fielded two tricky wingers in Dilan Markanday and Tyrhys Dolan, with Bradley Dack pulling the strings in between the pair of them, and it was these three that dominated the opening exchanges.

The visitors attacked with a speed and trickery that City are unlikely to see again this season. Their movement was sharp, their passing was crisp and it caused all sorts of problems for the Bantams’ defence. Dack was a particular threat from set pieces, lurking just outside the box for a succession of short corners to be worked to him, and from one of those Harry Lewis made the first of several outstanding saves.

The home side did manage to get a foothold in the game after the first ten minutes or so. Rovers’ defence contained one debutant and one teenage Premier League loanee more commonly fielded in midfield, and they both struggled with City’s classic front two, who briefly invited comparisons with a more famous one from a decade ago.

Kian Harratt doesn’t quite have Nahki Wells’ sheer speed, but his work rate made him a constant thorn in the visitors’ side. Andy Cook, meanwhile, is not as aerially dominant as James Hanson was, but is a far better goalscorer, and showed it on eighteen minutes, converting Scott Banks’ fine low cross.

Having scored, City became the better side. Harratt came close to doubling the lead, glancing Banks’ cross on to the post, and a second goal at this point could’ve made all the difference. The atmosphere went up a notch, helped by some challenges from Blackburn that could generously be described as heavy, and more accurately described as “blatant fouls missed by an incompetent referee”.

Their superior quality told, however, as Rovers worked space behind Matty Platt and Brad Halliday. Dolan streaked down the left behind them, and drew Romoney Critchlow across before squaring for Dack to finish. City almost struck back instantly, with Harry Chapman drilling a shot into the side netting, but shortly before half time Rovers struck again. It was another quick counter, with Critchlow beaten to the ball leaving two attackers up against Liam Ridehalgh. Jack Vale drew the defender out before slipping it to Markanday, who finished well.

Neither centre back covered themselves in glory this evening. Critchlow looked mostly composed but prone to errors at inopportune moments, while Platt looked a little slow against higher-league opposition and also uncomfortable in possession.

The second half proceeded in much the same vein as the first. Both sides created chances, with Blackburn’s generally being a bit better. The referee continued to be incompetent, at one point signalling the wrong way for a free kick and confusing the entire stadium, and at another point allowing Blackburn to play advantage after he’d blown his whistle. It was, however, a good and open cup tie.

The substitutions came after the hour mark, with Vadaine Oliver and Lee Angol summoned from the City bench. The home side seemed to lose some structure as a result though, and were simultaneously unable to build play as effectively and unwilling to go long to Oliver until the last few minutes of the game.

There were chances – one dangerous free kick bravely cleared by the visiting keeper, and one vital block deep into stoppage time. But Blackburn just about had enough to keep City out, and in the end deserved their win.

There was lots to be pleased about tonight – Scott Banks looked bright, Andy Cook grabbed another goal and Harry Lewis was outstanding in net. More pleasingly, the team did not let their heads drop, and kept going until the very end.

It’s no disgrace to lose to opponents with this much ability, and the performance bodes well for the league games to come.

Categories: Match Reviews

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6 replies

  1. 100% agree with the write-up. It was a great game to watch, end to end stuff and City should be proud that they had the courage to step up and take in a slick passing Championship club who before Saturday were top of the table. (Hill were 2nd at this point) which shows how against opponents willing to attack City are more comfortable.

    Agree the two centre backs struggled against the better attacks however both are relatively young and this will be a great indicator to them on how they need to develop their game play to make the next step up.

    I really liked seeing Banks, Harrat and Cook in the same team, there very different players but ones that ask different questions if opposition defenders.

    Lewis instinctive saves in 1st minute and again from a near own-goal by Critchlow we’re superb..there were others but they were the most important in terms of how the timing would have affected our heads.

    Really enjoyed myself tonight and in another day that Harrotvshot wouldn’t have hit the post and that shot deep in injury time (didn’t see shirt number) would have gone in and we would have won it at least had penalties!

  2. The second Blackburn goal was a handball
    Thanks ref
    Refs wages need to be increased so that we get better quality
    It’s ridiculous that the best refs in England earn less than £100k
    That’s the top of the profession?

    • I don’t think the erratic referee caused us to lose. However, you are right; their forward controlled the ball with his arm before passing it on.

  3. There were a couple of strange decisions but to call him incompetent is a bit harsh.

  4. Great game. Really enjoyed it despite the result. If we’re going to lose that’s the way to do it. Playing football (not hoofball) and competing from the first whistle to the last.
    Our two CBs had a tough night but both are young and pretty inexperienced, so we have to cut them some slack.
    If we play to that high tempo for 90 minutes on Saturday then we’ll batter Crewe!

  5. My 13 year old son’s verdict as we left said it all. After his 4 years of season ticket holding watching miserable home performances, he remarked “that was the best match I’ve seen here in a long time”.

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